What’s for supper? Vol. 282: In which I completely change my mind about Indian food

Not gonna lie: We ate like kings this week. Here’s what we had: 

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza for kids; Indian food for adults

The plan was for me and Damien to meet my brother on Saturday, and the kids would have Aldi pizza at home. But we had a bit of a storm and the roads were too bad for much travel. But the sacred words “Aldi pizza” had already been intoned and the wheels of deep mozzarella magic had already begun to turn, so there was nothing we could do. We had to leave some boxes of pizza on the table and go try the new Indian restaurant. 

Now, Damien and I . . . have never had Indian food before. Or, he has had lackluster, room temperature Indian food buffet at work parties a few times, and I have tried making butter chicken based on some hazy ingredients shouted at me by a rather aggressive Indian woman one time. So in practice, Damien and I have never had Indian food before, and didn’t especially want to start. But for some reason, I got it in my head we should try this little place, Royal Spice in Troy.

My dears. It was the best meal I’ve had in ages. Everything was completely CHARMING in my mouth. Just a delight. We had an appetizer platter with vegetable pakora, a big potato samosa, and some kind of little . . . thingies . . . round ones, and also some other ones, and then three kinds of sauce, a minty green savory one, some kind of bright red sweet pepper chutney, and then this amazing purplish sauce that turned out to be tamarind. I especially enjoyed the pakora. The insides reminded me of the spinach pies we make for passover, and the outsides were crisp and crinkly. Just lots of fun to eat, and with wonderful, lively flavors. 

Everything was so good! I ordered lamb korma with medium spice for my main dish, and Damien had full spice lamb biryani. 

I didn’t really know what korma was. It turned out to be big chunks of tender meat in a creamy, savory sauce, almost like a stew. The spice level was just right, just enough to wake up my face but not enough to be painful. It had a wonderful nutty, earthy, faintly sweet flavor, and came with a large portion of basmati rice. We also ordered two kinds of naan, which also came in generous portions.

The restaurant space is just a basic eatery, nothing special, but they were playing lively Indian music, the food was hot and fresh and plentiful, the prices were great, and the waitress was jolly and friendly and willing to talk about the food, even though the joint was jumping and she was doing everything herself. 

We each had a large bottle of Flying Horse lager, which is a mild, bready-tasting beer that was very refreshing with the spicy food.

They ran out and Damien ordered a Tag, which is also an Indian lager, but he said it wasn’t as good. 

Totally worth a visit if you’re anywhere in the area. We’re definitely going back to explore the menu some more. I’ve utterly changed my opinion of Indian food, and want to learn how to make pakora. Yay!

SUNDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, potato sticks

Damien made the roast beef, and very tender and juicy it was. This is his technique:

Sear the beef for a few minutes per side in olive oil and whole garlic cloves in a pot, then roast uncovered in a pan in the oven with the garlic at 325. Start checking for doneness at about 45 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes and then slice. Serve with the juice and the roasted garlic cloves. 

I had mine on a toasted roll with horseradish sauce, tomatoes, and provolone.

Every time we have provolone, I have to google “kinds of cheese,” because I cannot remember the word “provolone” on my own. I don’t understand why this is.  I love provolone. 

MONDAY
Clam chowder, ham and cheese sliders, veg and dip

I like clam chowder a lot, but hardly anyone else in this house likes it, or any other kind of chowder, or creamy soup, or soup in general. Since there’s nothing I can do in the face of such enormity [she said, using the word “enormity” correctly], I went ahead and made a big pot of clam chowder. The only regret I have is that I didn’t start it with a hunk of salt pork. It costs as much as a pound of good bacon, and I couldn’t quite face the experience of filling the house with bacon smells and then explaining over and over again that the smells were a lie and all we were having was this soup. So I just used butter, which is also good.

Clam chowder is so delicious. The recipe I cobbled together has celery, onion, and garlic in butter, white pepper, then chopped clams and clam juice, chicken stock, and flour and lots of half and half, and then some fresh parsley. Easy peasy, creamy and mild, full o’ clams. 

Jump to Recipe

I though I’d appease everyone by making some ham and cheese sliders. I found some recipes that call for making a sauce with dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce and all kinds of things, but I downgraded it all so they would be more willing to eat it. I just sliced a bunch of sweet Hawaiian rolls sideways, put in a layer of baby Swiss, then ham, then more Swiss on the bottom half, put the top roll slab back on, poured melted butter on top, sprinkled it with everything seasoning, covered it with tinfoil, let it sit and think for a while, and baked at 350 until the cheese was melted.

I honestly can’t remember if I put mustard in there or not. It doesn’t matter, because they decided the sandwiches “smelled weird” and didn’t eat them. The crumbs! The absolute crumbs. This is primo kid food, bright yellow and pink, cute little buttery mini sandwiches, an adorable little plate, but no.

Oh well. 

I also put out carrots and peppers and dip. Probably they ate dip for supper, and oyster crackers. The crumbs.

TUESDAY
Burgers and chips

Tuesday was supposed to be bo ssam day, but I forgot how early you need to get it started, so I instead started marinating the bo ssam on Tuesday, and made burgers for supper. No one complained. 

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, rice, fruit salad, crunchy rice rolls

Just an excellent meal. I forgot to even finish following the recipe, and it ended up being just fatty pork that had been sitting with salt and sugar for 24 hours, then cooking uncovered in a low oven for another six hours, and that’s it. Here was my reward:

It was FABULOUS. 

I couldn’t find the doenjang that I’m pretty sure is in the fridge somewhere, and they definitely didn’t have any in the stores, so I had to skip making the amazing spicy, nutty dipping sauce that goes along with the meat. So I just grabbed a bottle of sesame shoyu sauce for dipping.

I made a big pot of rice and a big bowl of fruit salad (pineapple, strawberries, and grapes), and we also had some of those sweet crunchy rice rolls. I served lettuce leaves for rolling up the meat in, and oh boy, it was just fantastic. There’s enough salt and sugar in this meat to keep you going all week. Totally worth it. The meat gets a dark, caramelized crust on the outside, and clinging to it are these wonderfully moist, tender shreds of meat that just fall apart.

You can dip the meat in sauce and wrap it up in lettuce with a little rice, or just eat everything separately. The strawberry, in particular, made a great complement to the salty, savory meat. It’s important to serve something mellow and unchallenging to go with the meat, which is very delicious but very loud in flavor.

Altogether a wonderful, gratifying meal, lots of fun to eat. Corrie packed a little sandwich bag of bo ssam in her lunch, and when they asked her (for the 100th day of school) what kind of food she could eat 100 of, she wrote “bo ssam.” Crumb status revoked!

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets and party mix for kids; Asian food for adults

Damien and I snucked away for a little early Valentine’s Day overnight getaway. 

For dinner, we tried Kogetsu in Peterborough, which is decorated like an Asian fever dream, with giant picture windows looking out over a waterfall. We had egg rolls and steamed pork dumplings in peanut sauce, and I ordered the nabe yaki udon, which is a noodle soup with an impressive assortment of strange and delicious mushrooms, vegetables, and proteins lurking in the broth, plus a poached egg and two enormous tempura shrimp.

The broth was oddly bland, but I liked it anyway. 

Then we went back to the inn. Last time we visited this inn, I was extremely pregnant with Irene, and you know what? Even when you’re not heavily pregnant, which I am not, it’s still super hard to get out of a hot tub. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. 

Breakfast was lovely. They cook everything from scratch to order, and much of their food is locally sourced. I had an English muffin with a poached egg and roasted tomato, with bacon and toasted whole wheat bread with raspberry jam. 

They also have a wonderful, elderly dog who limps around, collapsing into various sunbathing spots. The dog and the cheerful innkeepers were the only other people in the whole place. The other thing I like about this place is that it’s not haunted. I don’t mean to be a weirdo, but most inns and hotels are at least semi haunted. If you get up in the middle of the night, you will feel the misery and oppression in the air and in the hallways, presumably because sad and bad things have happened there. Take it or leave it, it’s just what I think. I have been in a lot of hotels! This one just had a Paul Revere bell ringing out the hours, and also a bird nest in the porch outside the window. I really love New Hampshire. We’re having a little thaw right now. It’s in the high 40’s, the puddles are glittering, there’s a little drip-drip-drip action going, and it feels like spring is something that might actually show up at some point. A good day. 

FRIDAY
French toast casserole, hash browns,  OJ

This meal is an excuse to serve orange juice, which I cannot seem to shift off the “unutterably expensive; for treats only” list in my brain. 

To make french toast casserole, tear up whatever stale or leftover bread you have in the house and heap it in a buttered casserole dish. Make enough egg and milk mixture to saturate the bread, and pour it over the bread pieces. You can add sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon to the mixture before pouring it out, if you like. Thin slices of apple is nice, as well. Dot with butter, and sprinkle with a little more sugar and cinnamon to make a nice crust. Bake at 35o until the egg is set. Serve in wedges. 

Here’s an old picture, back from when the sun would shine and we had stone fruits, oh my.

We survived the 100th day of school (Corrie had 100 bells on her shirt, and Benny dressed up as a tortoise, because tortoises live to be 100? I don’t know) and now we just have to make valentines for Monday. I bought a bunch of silicone molds (hearts, fancy hearts, roses, and dinosaurs) from Walmart, and we’re going to melt Jolly Ranchers into them and call it fancy. I have popped 20 bags of popcorn for the school dance tonight, and Irene’s gorilla mask has arrived in the mail (also for the school dance tonight). I’m sitting here kind of befuddled because I ate breakfast today, which I don’t normally do, and I went away on a Thursday, which I don’t normally do, and so my stomach and my brain have no idea what time of day or what day of the week it is. I will probably fall asleep at adoration. Will pray for you cheese bags before I do. 

New England clam chowder (without bacon)

You can certainly add bacon or fat back if you want! Rather than starting with butter, fry up a few pieces of meat first, take the meat out and break it up, fry the vegetables in the fat, and add the meat back in later.

Ingredients

  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 16 oz clam juice
  • 4 cup water
  • 6 tsp chicken bouillon powder (to make a concentrated broth)
  • 4 small potatoes, diced (peeled or unpeeled)
  • 3 6.5-oz cans of chopped clams
  • 3 cups half and half
  • 1 cup flour
  • fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, melt the butter. Sauté the celery and onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two longer. Stir in the white pepper.

  2. Add in the clam juice, the water with bouillon in it, the potatoes, and the clams, undrained. Simmer, uncovered, for about 20. minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

  3. In a small bowl, slowly whisk the half and half into the flour, then add this mixture gradually into the pot until blended.

  4. Heat through. Continue to cook at a low temperature to cook out the flour taste. If the chowder is too thick, add more chicken broth.

  5. Add chopped fresh parsley before serving if you like. Serve with oyster crackers.

What’s for supper? Vol. 277: Lamb

Yesterday, Epiphany, we went to Mass.

IN OUR DINING ROOM.

I still can’t even believe it happened, and I will never ever forget it. This is why I’ve been pushing so hard to finish the dining room renovations! I got it all more or less done in time (and I will write a whole other thing about that with copious before and after photos). Meantime, here’s our What’s for Supper for the week, including Epiphany, when WE HAD MASS IN OUR DINING ROOM.

ON OUR DINING ROOM TABLE. I still can’t even believe it. 

SATURDAY
New Year’s

Oh wait, first, we did have homemade sushi for New Year’s Eve, as planned. My sushi rolls turned out okay, not amazing. But the sushi party was fun, and there was lots of tasty food.

Everybody found something they liked, including the cat.

We watched a Marx Brothers movie (the one where they go to college. A college widow is a woman who dates college students and then still lives in town after they graduate, thereby making her a “widow” of sorts every year when they leave. We have to look it up every few years) and then an MST3K episode (Reptilicus). Corrie could have stayed up all night, I believe. 

And now I also have to tell you about one of the most boneheaded things I have done in the kitchen in ages. Earlier in the week, I had scouted around town and found a large and beautiful lamb shank, probably six pounds. I intended to roast it on New Year’s Eve and serve it with pita bread for a nice little treat. So on Saturday afternoon, I got all the other ingredients and all the stuff for sushi, and got home just in time to season the lamb and get it in the oven before we need to get the sushi rice going. 

And . . . I couldn’t find it. I could not find this rather large piece of lamb, which, as I mentioned, is at least six pounds. How do you lose a hunk of lamb? True, we have two refrigerators, but we ended up taking everything out of both of them, and I simply could not find that lamb. I knew I had put it in there! I felt like I was losing my mind! The only thing I could find was this piece of pork, and where did that even come from? Didn’t I already cook the pork a few days ago for those kind of mediocre . . . nachos . . . 

Oh no. 

Yes, friends, I had made a terrible mistake. Somehow, I was so busy and stressed out and dopey that I had tossed a giant $7-a-pound lamb shank into the crock pot and boiled the hell out of it, shredded it, and served it on top of store brand tortilla chips with wads of melted cheese. LAMB NACHOS. We had lamb nachos, and we didn’t even know it. 

Here’s a picture of the lamb nachos that I thought were pork nachos.

I am eating them on a box of shoes and miscellaneous crap because I was in the middle of putting in a new dining room floor and was *sob* just gulping down my food, not even really tasting it. 

So . . . we just had sushi for New Year’s Eve, no lamb, and Damien fried up some frozen dumplings and heated up some egg rolls and dumplings, and it was plenty.

You know, when I was working on the floor, at one point there was a big gaping hole leading directly to the basement, the the dog of course came along and instantly lost his Christmas ball down the hole. And he could not figure out what had happened. Ball . . .no ball! No ball. No ball! Where ball go? There was ball, now ball no here! No ball! Was ball . . . but now . . . no ball! Even after we got it for him, you could see that there was still this cold pocket of confusion in his brain, and I still think that even to this day, he hasn’t completely gotten over it. 

Well, that’s what I was like with this friggin’ lamb. I knew I had cooked it and eaten it and it was gone, and it wasn’t coming back. But I still spent the next few hours opening boxes and lifting cushions and peeking under tables, like it was going to be there waiting for me. Which would be weird! But I couldn’t help myself.  

A fitting way to end the year. 

ANYWAY. 
SUNDAY
NEW YEAR’S DAY
BIRTHDAY!

Baby New Year requested her traditional birthday meal, calzones and tiramisu. The calzones are my job, and I have a reliable but unspectacular method with pre-made pizza dough and sauce. Everyone likes it well enough, so I don’t mess with it.

Damien made the tiramisu using this recipe, and it was light and creamy and delicious as always. 

She elected to go visit an art museum with some of her friends in lieu of a party. 

MONDAY
Sheet pan lemon chicken on potatoes, garlic knots

I had a bunch of chicken thighs and no clear plan, so I tried out this NYT recipe, more or less. I skimmed, I skimmed. Basically you lay down a bunch of scallions, then a bunch of sliced potatoes, then some chicken thighs. You’re supposed to save out half the potatoes and arrange them around the chicken, so they probably would have come out more crisp than mine did if I had done that. You drizzle olive oil and sprinkle on plenty of salt and pepper on each layer. Then you cook it, allegedly for 35 minutes. For whatever reason, it took more like an hour and 15 minutes. Some chicken be like that. 

Then you remove the food from the pan, deglaze it, throw in some lemon juice and capers, and I also added some white wine, and make a little sauce to spoon over the chicken.

Serve with more lemon. And you can see the little girls also made up a bunch of garlic knots for us out of pizza dough. 

It was fine. It definitely would have been better if I had distributed the food over two pans to crisp it up more. But it was super easy to make, and I can imagine all kinds of combinations of things instead of the scallions and the potatoes. So there you go. I do love lemons and capers.

TUESDAY
Banh mi

Some of the family is tired of banh mi, but some of them still love it, and I happen to be a member of the latter group, so guess what’s staying in the rotation. 

Yes, I used the pork that was supposed to be nachos. A fitting way to bring closure to my lamb grief. My Lammkummer. 

WEDNESDAY
Burgers

Nothing to report. This seems like eleven years ago. 

THURSDAY
Shawarma, stuffed grape leaves, king cakes

So Thursday was Epiphany, the big day I had been pushing to get ready for all week. I, addition to putting in a new floor and trim, I bought a breakfast nook off Craigslist. I have been thinking of a breakfast nook ever since we moved into this house, and the perfect one finally turned up at the perfect time. 

The only thing wrong with it was that it smells like cigarette smoke. But this turns out to be not a catastrophe when it’s wood. (It was a catastrophe when I bought a giant curved leather couch that turned out to smell like cigarette smoke. I solved that by not sitting on the couch for several years, and then throwing the couch away.) I scrubbed it down with vinegar and then just let it air out, and the smell is almost gone. 

It came with a square table which has a Patriot’s logo stained and woodburned into it. I may eventually start using that as our main table. But that was not the table I was going to use when we had Mass at our house. Instead, Lena scoured and scrubbed and bleached the heck out of the old wood and tile one we’ve been using for almost 25 years, and I covered it with a fresh white cloth, and . . . guys, we had Mass on our dining room table.

I supplied our friend Fr. Matthew with some candles and a bowl to wash his hands, and he brought his Mass kit and a little bag with hosts for everyone in the family, and we set up chairs facing the table, and we had Mass.

I didn’t take any pictures during Mass, because I wanted to be as present as possible. But if you are picturing an intensely reverent atmosphere, that ain’t it. We were running a little behind schedule and made the tactical error of just throwing the dog into his crate, rather than giving him time to figure out that Fr. Matthew is an okay guy. So the entire Mass was set to the horrible music of a frantic boxer expressing profound self-pity and woe, woe, woe, woe, woooooooe. Then, right after the Sanctus, the kitchen timer went off for the shawarma, and then of course the smoke alarm went off. In other words, there is no way it could have been any other way, and Jesus came to us, and it was beautiful and ridiculous and holy. And the Benadryl we gave the dog eventually kicked in, sort of. 

I did take some photos of the rest of the evening! Pardon me while I do a bit of a photo dump. We did the Epiphany house blessing, with the blessed chalk on the door way 

and holy water in the four corners of the main rooms. 

and the kids did some of the readings for the blessing. 

Then we had chicken shawarma and stuffed grape leaves and fruit. We had the chicken with pita, yogurt sauce, cucumbers and tomatoes, various olives, feta, and hummus; and grapes and pomegranates. The stuffed grape leaves were a mish mash of various recipes, but they were filled with rice seasoned mainly with mint and dill. 

They were pretty good, if not very tidy. I definitely prefer fresh grape leaves. These were from a jar. 

Then we at the two Rouse’s king cakes Fr. Matthew carried on a plane from Louisiana, because that’s the kind of priest he is

and then we had some piano time,

some guitar and ukulele and kalimba time,

and some more animal time. 

Corrie sang all the verses of “Mississippi,” her favorite murder ballad, and some of us discovered we can sing in harmony when pressed. And then we all got a blessing and then it was time to go! I have never had a more wonderful Epiphany day. 

I will tell you, when Fr. Matthew suggested having Mass at our house, I almost turned him down, because it seemed overwhelming, and we’re not the kind of people who etc. etc. But if you ever have the opportunity, please do it. It was a joy. 

And good grief, you guys. I just realized. The last thing I did in 2021 was lose the lamb that was supposed to go on our table.

The first thing we did in 2022 was . . . this. 

Well. 

And now this seems like a terrible anti-climax, but this is still a food blog, so. . .

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Having quesadillas today! And then I am going to drop dead, because I am exhausted. 

 

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

 

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 249: I’m holding out for a gyro

Man, that was a fast week. The kids were on vacation, so I had the time to cook a bit more than I have in a while. Some tasty meals! Come for the recipes, stay to see the worst thing I’ve ever done to my car.

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Burgers grilled outside, chips

First outdoor meal of the year! I’m very happy. I love eating outdoors, even though we seem to run through tabletops like nobody’s business, and, not wanting to sit at a topless table like a jerk, I always end up perching on a rock and balancing my plate on my knees like a jerk. But I had a dinner companion on Saturday, who perches on rocks and balances things on her knees for fun.

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, veggies

A popular meal, as long as I don’t make it very often, which I do. 

MONDAY
Beef shish kebab, roast corn on the cob

Great price on big hunks of beef, so I cut it up into chunks and marinated it.

I wish I had let it marinate longer, as it was still fairly tough. Good flavor, though. I browsed a bunch of recipes and then came up with my own marinade, which I wrote down on a piece of paper and then lost. Please clap.

Anyway, I threaded the beef on wooden skewers with onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and little tomoots.

I usually soak the skewers in water for half an hour to keep them from catching on fire and to keep the meat from drying out, but this time I was seized with skepticism, so I skipped that step. Guess what happened. So fine, so next time I’ll soak them. 

I had a bunch of corn on the cob (from Florida, apparently. I don’t think of Florida as full of corn fields, but I guess it can’t be all alligators and headlines) but didn’t start any water boiling in time to cook it, and Damien didn’t have any space on the grill for it; so I heated up the broiler, slathered the shucked corn with melted butter, and broiled it for ten minutes or so, turning it once.

Then I sprinkled it with elote seasoning, and it was pretty good! Maybe a little bit dry, but it’s early corn anyway, so maybe that was inevitable. Definitely a decent, easy option. I do love corn that’s slightly charred.

Such an ornamental little meal.

TUESDAY
Lamb gyros

If I told you how cheap lamb was, you’d plotz. It was so cheap! So I did that crazy easy recipe from Tom Nichols’ grandmother, and as usual, it turned out juicy, incredibly tender, and bursting with flavor. I used to go to a lot of trouble inserting slivered garlic into lamb, but believe me: This is a thousand times easier and it really tastes better. 

Jump to Recipe

So I roasted the lamb and sliced it up

and we had it on pita bread with spicy fries, tomatoes, fresh mint leaves, and plenty of garlicky yogurt sauce.

Jump to Recipe

Freaking fantastic meal. 

I love lamb so much, and the mint leaves and yogurt sauce made it truly delightful.

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, spicy coleslaw, rice, pineapple, lemon meringue pie

I’ve been wanting to try this recipe forevvvvvver. It’s supposed to be a party dish: You serve up a gleaming mountain of a pork roast, and everybody gathers around and pokes their chopsticks through the crisp, caramelized skin, happily picking out scrumptious tender shreds of meat, which they then dip into various savory sauces and eat wrapped up in lettuce with a little rice. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

We didn’t quite get there. We got close! It was delicious. It was extremely late. It was juicy and screaming with flavor. It was not shreddy. It was the saltiest thing I have eaten since I just straight up ate some salt. The kids mostly loved it and said I should make it again, but that may possibly have been because it was three hours past normal dinnertime. I don’t know! I do want to make it again.

I used the recipe from My Korean Kitchen. You rub the pork with, like, an alarming amount of sea salt and sugar

wrap it, and let it sit at least six hours, or overnight. Then you unwrap it and cook it at a low temp for six hours. Then you slather a sugary mixture over it to finish it up with a nice rich crust, and then you serve it as described above. 

As you can see, I had two smaller pork shoulders, rather than one giant one, so I reasoned I could get away with cooking it for closer to 3.5 hours. No dice. 4.5 hours later, it still wasn’t shreddy, but we were ravenous, so I called it done and sliced it up. 

The flavors more than made up for the deficiencies in texture. I was also bowled over by the dipping sauce, which is made with (doenjang) soybean paste, gochujang (fermented chili paste), sesame oil, sesame seeds, honey, garlic, onion, scallions, and walnuts, all ground up together.

You guys, it was amazing. It was one of those foods that goes, “beep, bop, boop, KABLAMMO” in your mouth, one flavor after another. Really lively and intense. A tiny bit went a long way.

I also made the spicy Korean coleslaw she recommended, which had a lovely, bright kick, and helped balance out the intensely salty pork. I also cut up a couple of pineapples, and set out a big pot of rice and bunch of lettuce leaves. 

Note: This meal is about 46,300 calories per serving. So go run around the block a few times, you’ll be fine. It’s so good. 

And Clara, having made some rash promises to some Amelia Bedelia fans, came through with a lemon meringue pie. By the time it was time for dessert, the pies had slumped a bit, but they were still very tasty.

She used my recipe for cheater’s lemon meringue pie

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which is pretty easy, and has only a few ingredients and has a great, intensely lemony flavor. 

THURSDAY
Domino’s pizza

On Thursday we technically went to an art museum and technically ate restaurant food. Promises were made and then technically kept. I complained about Thursday in an essay I just sent off to Australia, so you will just have to wait. The short version is: It’s a good thing I haven’t bought a new car yet, because this is what I did to my old car:

100% my fault, nobody got hurt, and you can totally still open the other two doors, so. 

FRIDAY

Kids are having Giant Chocolate Pancake, adults are having shrimp lo mein. No doubt some people will have both. Imma use my super simple lo mein recipe

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and throw some shrimp in there and no one can stop me. Except possibly Pfizer. We had our second Pfizer shots yesterday and I may be just a damp spot on the floor by Friday evening, in which case, the kids know how to make their own pancakes. 

Okay, here’s the recipe cards! In case I didn’t heartily recommend the lamb gyros or the bo ssam enough, I’m heartily doing it again. 

 

Tom Nichols' Grandmother's Leg of Lamb

Ingredients

  • boneless leg of lamb
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • garlic salt
  • oregano

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Slash the meat several times, about an inch deep.

  3. Fill the cuts with plenty of garlic powder.

  4. Slather olive oil all over the meat.

  5. Crust it with garlic salt. Sprinkle with all the oregano you own.

  6. Cover meat loosely with tinfoil and cook three hours. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

 

Cheater's lemon meringue pie

I like a pie shell made from several cups of animal cracker crumbs whirred into a sandy texture, mixed with a stick of melted butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a dash of salt. Mix well and press into the pan.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell

For the lemon layer:

  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350

  2. Mix together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well combined. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

  3. Bake 10-15 minutes until the mixture has a little skin.

  4. While it's baking, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until it has soft peaks. Then gradually add the sugar until it has stiff peaks.

  5. When the lemon layer comes out of the oven, spread the meringue over the top and make a little peaks all over it with a fork or spatula.

  6. Return the pie to the oven and bake for another ten minutes or so until the meringue is slightly browned.

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

Duty and salvation

When my oldest kid was about four, she happened to wake up around midnight to go to the bathroom. She stumbled through the living room, where my husband and I were sitting.

On this particular night – which was not a typical night! – we happened to be watching Daffy Duck cartoons and eating candy. She didn’t say a word, but just nodded to herself and kept walking. She was clearly thinking, “I KNEW it!”

It was, as I say, not a typical night. A typical night would be more likely to find us filling out insurance paperwork, trying to get stains out of someone’s favourite overalls, or simply trying to muster up the strength to get up, brush our teeth, struggle our way under the covers, and get a few hours of sleep before the baby woke up for her first feeding, so we could catch another few hours of sleep before it was time to get up and do it all over again, take care of everybody and everything all over again.

But what she saw was burned into her brain, and she thought she had found the real secret of adulthood: As soon as the kids’ bedroom door closes, you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT.

She wasn’t really wrong. Adults CAN do whatever they want. The catch is, if they DECIDE to do whatever they want, they’ll almost certainly ruin their lives and the lives of everyone around them, and go to hell when they die. It’s kind of a big catch.

What I tell my kids is that, when you’re a child, people make you do things you don’t want to do. But when you’re an adult, you have to make yourself do the things you don’t want to do. You have to be the unwilling worker and the strict taskmaster, both!

It occurs to me that we, even as adults, often fall into thinking of God as the strict taskmaster: the one who descends from on high, telling us what we can and cannot do. Every time we feel the urge to do WHATEVER WE WANT — uh oh, here comes God, saying “no, no, no.” Get up, take care of the thing, don’t do the thing you want to do, do the thing you don’t want to do instead. Then, tomorrow, do it all over again, even though you’re tired.

Following the ten commandments can feel very much like this, some days, or some years. And then we go to confession and admit, “I didn’t do the thing you told me to do. I failed.” And God forgives us, which is nice.

I’ve been teaching my faith formation class, over and over again, that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are the sheep. We are the silly ones who need to be saved, and He is the saviour. We are the wandering ones, and He is the one who finds us. We are the ones who fall into the hole, and He is the one who pulls us out again.

So I was making up my lesson plans and I realised that, with all this talk about sheep, I had not yet introduced the kids to the idea that Jesus is the paschal lamb. And boy, the strangeness of it hit me right between the eyes. God is not only the shepherd, but also the lamb.

I know you know this. You’re a Catholic, so you’ve heard it all before. But have you ever thought about how strange it is?

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

What’s for supper? Vol. 78: Hallelujah! Let’s eat!

Hooray, a Friday food post again! I actually spent last Friday, Good Friday, cooking and not tasting. IT WAS HARD. But I was way behind on Passover cooking, so that’s how it turned out.

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY 

Holy Saturday is when we have our Passover seder. On the menu for the feast:
Chicken soup with matzo balls

The soup turned out much buttier than usual; no idea why. It’s supposed to be on the clear side, and “golden” (i.e. shimmering with fat). Tasted great, though.

Chopped liver


Gefilte fish (store bought) with horseradish


Charoset


Spinach pie


and Garlic cinnamon chicken and
A tiny bit of roast lamb (it hadn’t gone on sale yet!)

You can find recipes for all of the foods above in this post.

The only thing I intentionally made different this year was to cook the spinach pies in mini muffin tins, rather than in a pie plate. I just don’t think you should hear “pie” and then taste spinach and onions. (For some reason “spinach muffin” doesn’t trouble me.) I thought they were cute and tasty this way, and will make them this way again.

I didn’t have a meat grinder this year (but am eyeing this attachment for my Kitchen Aid), so I made the four pounds of chopped liver in small batches in the blender. This was not a gratifying experience. It wasn’t velvety smooth, but still delicious.

Dessert:
Chocolate walnut cake with apricot
Lemon sponge cake
Four kinds of macaroons (store bought)
Chocolate-covered jelly rings
Chocolate-covered halvah (sesame candy)
Sesame crunch candies
Pistachios and almonds
Chocolate caramel matzoh

I moaned and groaned over not having any fruit slice candy this year, but we survived.
Both cakes were from new recipes this year. The chocolate one had a nice flavor, but it was squashier than I would like. Pretty, though.


The lemon one also tasted fine, but man, it was dense. No sponge about it. I just don’t have a light touch with baking, and baking without flour or yeast is just asking for some really compact treats! I think I used the recipe on the side of the potato starch can.

***

SUNDAY
Seder leftovers!

And boy, there were plenty.  And of course hard boiled eggs, and a world of Easter candy.

***

MONDAY
Matzo brei, salami, dill pickles, grapes

Matzo brei is a weird little recipe that everyone should know. You take a sheet of matzo, break it into chunks in a bowl, and pour hot water over it. Let it sit for thirty seconds or so, and then press the water out. Then beat up two eggs, stir in the drained matzo, and fry the mixture up in some hot oil, turning once, until the edges are crisp.

You can serve it with jelly, you can serve it with salt and pepper and fried onions, whatever. It’s SO GOOD. Worth venturing into the Jewby aisle to get yourself a box of two of matzo, believe me.

***

TUESDAY
Beef banh mi

Remember when I asked how to make Easter last for fifty days? You could do worse than making a lot of banh mi, especially if you just happen to have a lot of leftover chopped liver in the house. These sandwiches were out of this world.

In the morning, I sliced up some carrots as thin as I could, then put them in a jar to pickle with some white vinegar, a little water, and some sugar.

Then I sliced the meat (I used London broil) pretty thin and put it in a bag to marinate, using this recipe. I let it go for about six hours. My husband cooked up the meat — well, first he ran out for more bread, because I burned the first batch while toasting it. Then he toasted more bread, and then he cooked up the meat in a single layer on a roasting pan under a hot broiler, just enough to blacken the edges a tiny bit.

So, the smell. This marinade calls for garlic, shallots, and fish sauce. Benny spent the dinner hour hiding under a fleece Our Lady of Guadalupe blanket and weeping because the house smelled “wike dog frow up.” Which, well, she wasn’t wrong, especially early in the cooking. But it tasted so good.

Toasted rolls with mayonnaise, lots of cilantro, pickled carrots, sliced cucumbers, the meat, and then chopped liver. Oh, my stars. The sweet, savory meat frolicking with the snappy, sour carrots, and the strong, bitey liver cuddling up to the cool cucumbers and cilantro. It was so good, it was almost indecent.

***

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, chips

I spent the afternoon sorting winter clothes to be stored away. Four hours from start to finish:

so the kids made hot dogs.

***

THURSDAY
Instant pot mac and cheese

I made a triple recipe of this in my Instant Pot (associates link). The hot sauce and mustard give it a good flavor. This is miles easier and faster than cooking the pasta, cooking the sauce, and then mixing them together and baking it. Also, this time, I read the directions more carefully and did not shoot a geyser of yellow cheese at the ceiling through the steam vent.

***

FRIDAY
Roast lamb, challah, maybe asparagus if I remember to get some

Today is Friday within the octave of Easter, or, as it’s traditionally known, Meatster Friday. Leg of lamb was at the astonishing price of $2.99 a pound, so I got a niiiiiice big one. Gonna stud it with slivered garlic and rosemary, slather it with white wine and honey, and roast it.

Gonna try out this challah recipe. Here’s a pic of the last time I made challah:

And now I’m running out to buy some yeast. Benny says, “Yeast makes everything rise! God thought of it! He thought of everything! He made friends and family! He made sisters and brothers! And cousins! Well . . . I’m not so sure about cousins.”

Sorry, cousins. I don’t know how you earned a place in Benny’s theodicy, but there it is.
Happy Easter! Happy Meatster! He is risen! Let’s eat.